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Bad Faith in Property Insurance Claims

No one files an insurance claim until something bad has happened. By the time you file a property insurance claim there has, by definition, been some damage to the insured property. If the damage is extensive, your home or your business—sometimes both—needs to be repaired or replaced. Fortunately, you have that policy that you’ve been paying premiums on for years, designed for just such an occurrence.

The Good Faith Experience

If the insurance company is acting in good faith, there will be an orderly processing of the claim, with an adjuster and maybe a contractor or two sent to examine the damage and report back to the insurer. The claims manager will be in contact and, while you may have an argument or two about some details, you will quickly get a check that allows you to fix everything up and move on with your life.

The Bad Faith Experience

But what if that isn’t what happens and you find yourself confused, angry, and uncompensated long after the property damage occurred? What if your insurer:

  • Denies the claim on unreasonable grounds?
  • Repeatedly delays making a decision on the claim?
  • Simply ignores the claim, failing to respond or communicate in any meaningful way?
  • Makes you an offer for an amount of money that won’t come close to compensating you for the property damage?
  • Repeatedly asks for more information, orders more inspections, conducts more interviews, etc.?

You’re looking at a potential bad faith claim against your property insurer, and you will need to get a very experienced bad faith attorney to sit down and talk first to you, then to your insurer.

Other Examples of Bad Faith

In addition to the bad faith actions described above, bad faith claims against property insurers may be based on such things as:

  • Encouraging the insured to begin repairs and then denying coverage;
  • Denying claims because the insured failed to keep up ordinary maintenance, without making a serious effort to determine whether that is true;
  • Encouraging—sometimes insisting—that you hire a specific contracting company to assess and/or repair damage; if the task is damage assessment, the insurer should be paying it as part of the claims process; if the contractor performs repairs, are they performed competently and at a reasonable cost?

Widespread Damage from Storms

Claims of property insurance bad faith often stem from the insurer’s actions after a major loss by storm, hurricane, tornado, and the like. Given the widespread damage, the insurer has an incentive to lowball specific claims. However, the situation also allows many insureds to compare what the insurer has told them separately. This is a situation that allows experienced bad faith lawyers to make the most of their experience.

  • How many different adjusters have been used?
  • Do the insurer’s offers vary by which adjuster visited the home?
  • Are the offers for very similar damage different and do the differences correspond to which adjuster handled the claim?

Damages from Bad Faith

If your bad faith claim is successful, you can recover a lot more than the amount that was originally due under the policy. Recovery may include all economic damages stemming from the insurer’s bad faith conduct, as well as compensation for emotional distress and attorney fees. In cases where your bad faith attorney can establish the insurer’s intentional placing of its own interests ahead of yours, punitive damages may be obtained.

The Importance of Experience

Bad faith claims need to be properly laid out in the court filings, and proof is the difference between winning and losing. For example, the insurer’s investigation file is critical to claims that the loss isn’t covered by the policy. It has information gathered from multiple sources—fire department, police, witnesses, emergency responders, and so on—that bear on the reasonableness of the insurer’s denial.

At the Surrano Law Offices, we have decades of experience dealing with the insurance industry focusing on insurance bad faith claims. It’s a lengthy record of success in the bad faith field. We know insurance and insurance companies. Call us and tell us where your dispute stands, and we will advise you on the best course of action to take.